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Transit and trans-shipment controls in an arms trade treaty
Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley
SIPRI Background Paper

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The drafting of an arms trade treaty (ATT) represents a unique opportunity to define common state responsibilities for exercising control over the different stages of the arms transfer process and, as a result, prevent illicit and destabilizing arms transfers. A large proportion of arms transfers transit through third countries. Therefore transit controls provide opportunities to strengthen state control at a stage when arms shipments are particularly vulnerable to diversion to illicit markets.

This paper provides an overview of existing international and regional agree­ments and best practices for controls on transit and trans-shipment. It discusses national implementation and enforce­ment of transit controls, paying particular attention to licensing and authorization, record keeping and information sharing as areas where an ATT could contribute to enhancing transit controls and their enforcement. A case study from the United Arab Emirates shows how 16 000 handguns and related ammunition worth more than $4 million were mislabelled to evade transfer controls when travelling through several states. The case study also shows how arms transfer control legislation can be effectively utilized to pursue a criminal case against those involved, but that more international cooperation is need to ensure that all of the parties involved in such activities are held accountable for their actions.


I. Introduction
II. International obligations and guidelines
III. National implementation
IV. Transit and trans-shipment controls in an ATT

Related publications

Implementing an Arms Trade Treaty: Lessons on Reporting and Monitoring from Existing Mechanisms, SIPRI Policy Paper no. 28, Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley
'Import controls and an arms trade treaty', SIPRI Background Paper, Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley

About the authors

Paul Holtom (United Kingdom) is Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. His areas of research include transparency in the field of international arms transfers, UN arms embargoes and illicit arms trafficking; and European arms exports and export controls. His most recent publications include ‘Ukrainian arms supplies to sub-Saharan Africa’, SIPRI Background Paper (Feb. 2011); ‘The neverending flow: international transfers of used arms and military equipment’, Export vooruzheniy (Apr. 2011, co-author); and ‘Reporting to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms’, SIPRI Fact Sheet (May 2011, co-author).

Mark Bromley (United Kingdom) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. His areas of research include arms acquisitions in Latin America, transparency in the field of international arms transfers and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW). His recent publications include Air Transport and Destabilizing Commodity Flows , SIPRI Policy Paper no. 24 (May 2009, co-author) and ‘National reports on arms exports’, SIPRI Fact Sheet (Mar. 2011, co-author).

Publisher: SIPRI
12 pp.
July 2011


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